While agriculture in Austria remains at a very high level and is the world leader in organic farming, it is facing similar challenges to other farming economies in Europe. Challenges relate to a change in the EU’s common agricultural policy and external threats not influenced by farmers in Austria themselves.
Organic farming – overview
Austria has for many years been relying on environmentally friendly farming methods due to consumer expectations and the climatic and climate, and geographical conditions. Austria has consistently pursued a quality policy instead of promoting the highest possible yield per hectare.
At the top of such a defined agricultural policy is organic farming. Austria is recognized as an organic farming pioneer in Europe, and the first organic farms in the world were registered in Austria in 1927, i.e. almost 100 years ago. Austria also became the first country to establish national regulations on organic farming ten years before the European Union adopted similar solutions. The Austrian agricultural philosophy considers organic products much more than just a niche. Austria has already achieved the EU target set in the European Commission’s flagship strategy. Currently, 23% of Austrian farmers benefit from organic farming advantages, while more than 25% of all agricultural areas are managed according to high environmental standards. The main goal is to promote the most ecological use of land to maintain a good quality of soil, water and air for the next generations.
In 2020, more than 10% of supermarket turnover in Austria came from fresh, organic products. Compliance with the requirements for organic food forces the resignation from biotechnology. Austrian consumers do not accept chemical fertilizers, pesticides or genetic engineering (commonly used in other countries). This creates serious challenges for food producers, farmers and input suppliers. Despite the limitation of the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, average yields of, for example, maize in Austria are higher than in the United States. High average yields raise legitimate questions about the sense of using chemical growth enhancement. As the Austrian example shows, similar results are possible by increasing the use of organic substances, promoting crop rotation or caring for animal welfare. So far, as the pioneer, Austria has avoided the introduction of genetically modified crops into its agriculture and has managed to maintain sustainable production methods with quality and hygiene throughout the food production process, from the field to the table.
EU agricultural policy – new challenges?
Implementation of the new EU agricultural policy in Austria, according to the current assumptions, would entail significant restrictions on the operation of organic farms, constituting a significant share of the total number of Austrian farmers. This is now the main concern and point of contention in talks between farmers and the Austrian government.
Notwithstanding the above, Austrian entrepreneurs are currently facing the following challenges:
Overall, while agriculture in Austria remains at a very high level and is the world leader in organic farming, it is facing similar challenges to other farming economies in Europe. Challenges relate to a change in the EU’s common agricultural policy and external threats not influenced by farmers in Austria themselves.
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